Dream Becomes Reality For Wright

Julian Wright's NBA dream finally became reality when he was selected with the 13th pick of the NBA draft by the New Orleans Hornets Thursday night in New York. Wright was the second to last lottery selection behind Thaddeus Young, who went to Philadelphia.

After two years of teaming with guards Russell Robinson and Mario Chalmers, Julian Wright will now be getting wispy feeds off the break from star point guard Chris Paul. Paul teams with swingman Desmond Mason (a free-agent), small forward Peja Stojakovic, power forward David West (team-high 18.3 points per game) center Tyson Chandler, and guards Devin Brown and Rasual Butler. The Hornets finished 39-43 last season despite a rash of injuries; three-time all-star Stojakovic played just 13 games.

“They’re a really promising team,” Wright said in a post-draft teleconference. “I think this will be a really great opportunity for me to show my playmaking skills with a guy like Chris Paul. He’s running the show at point, but I think I can do a lot of things, especially on the wing and really help the team on the offense and defensive end.”

Hornets general manager Jeff Bower and head coach Byron Scott were ecstatic about landing Wright late in the lottery. New Orleans had Wright ranked as the sixth best prospect in the draft.

“When you have a player ranked as high as we did, you certainly don’t expect him to be there at 13,” Bower told hornets.com. “Of the scenarios we had laid out over the last week in trying to track the (first 12 picks), this is one that we were very hopeful for, but didn’t really think it would happen. We’re extremely happy and think we’ve added a quality young man to the franchise.”

“He’s able to do so many things,” Bower added. “He’s able to take a defensive rebound with his (ball handling) and ability to make plays for other people. He’s able to go into the post, and I think that’s something you’ll see as he gets more and more comfortable with his offensive game.”

Scott called Wright a “poor man’s Magic Johnson.” The New Orleans head coach actually played with Magic on the Los Angeles Lakers.

“The one thing I told Jeff when he brought up (Wright’s) name (as a possibility at 13), I was like, ‘You’re crazy,’” Scott said. “I also said that I thought it would be a gift.”

So now Wright’s journey in New Orleans begins. KU coach Bill Self believes Wright has a very bright future. And what will Wright’s destiny be 10 years from now?

“I think he can potentially be an all-star,” Self said. “I do think of all the guys taken in this year’s draft...he has a chance to really elevate himself ahead of some of the guys that even went ahead of him because of his potential. You look at the draft and there’s two guys (Greg Oden and Kevin Durant), and then there’s about 10 or 12 guys in those next picks. ...I really see Julian potentially having the chance to emerge as one of the three or four best players in that next group. If he does that, then he’ll have a great chance to be an all-star at some point in time.”

Wright said he knew he was headed to New Orleans after Philadelphia picked Young. While Wright never spoke to the Hornets’ brass during the draft process, his agent Rob Pelinka was in contact with the organization.

“He really went to battle for me,” Wright said. “After Thaddeus Young was picked, my agent confirmed it so I was really happy and relieved. I wasn’t picked as high as teams I worked out for, but just relieved a team in New Orleans still saw things and knew I could make a change right away even though I didn't work out for them. So that was really refreshing to know.”

And what was going through his mind when NBA commissioner David Stern called his name? Wright said he first thought of his family and all their support during the draft process.

“I hugged my mom and said I loved her,” Wright said.

Wright can’t wait to fly down to New Orleans and meet the coaching staff and players.

“I haven’t been down to New Orleans since my sophomore year in high school playing in an AAU tournament,” Wright said. “I’m really interested in the changes that have already been made (after Hurricane Katrina), and hopefully I can contribute to that in a positive way. ...I’m definitely going to be a role model and try to be a good citizen down there. I’m looking forward to the whole shebang...(and) hopefully helping the team become a playoff contender and playoff team.”

While he’s now a Hornet, Wright knows he’ll always be a Jayhawk and visit Lawrence.

“I’m coming back to KU. I’m coming back,” he said.

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